Creating Picture Book Characters – The Evolution of Gracie Goose
I remember exactly when I came up with the character of Gracie. It was June 2014, And I was working in the office at a Junior School. I discovered that a perspective pupil was joining the school with a surname of Goose and ideas just started flowing around the antics of a Goose. I don’t know why but ideas spark from such simple things such as a name! Gracie Goose just sounded like a character I wanted to go on an adventure with.
The next step was to draw, draw, and draw geese in as many poses and movements as possible. I have pages of sketches like these and they aren’t particularly pretty, But they help understand characteristics and movements of the subject that are important in character development. If the reader thinks your character is a cat instead of a goose – you probably haven’t drawn enough geese (or too many cats maybe!) Movements and poses from certain subjects can be taken and adapted to evolve a character that the reader will understand and hopefully enjoy! Even if your story and art style is far removed from reality, understanding your subject matter is still important for reader to believe the goose is still a goose (or the human is a human etc).
Originally, Gracie was part of a story called ‘Gracie and the Stolen Egg’ which was much more a caper that involved Gracie stealing a golden egg to feel special amongst her more talented peers. It was a random idea to say the least! (It involved a rabbit circus with strong men bunnies). My agent encouraged me to take it in a much more simplified direction and that’s when ‘The Egg’ started to happen.
Gracie has kept her character design but her world and the characters around her have been simplified to tell a better story.
When going from original sketch to final artwork – lots of things change to make characters more believable. I’ve taken a spread from ‘The Egg’ Dummy Book Sketch all the way to final artwork to show you the changes that are made. Originally, it’s a very simple and reflective spread in which Gracie wants to give up looking after this egg and doubts herself. But I wanted Gracie to have a bit more of a cheeky expression and character to reflect how she really feels. The way she walks has become more exaggerated to show her attitude and her eyes glance angrily at this poor egg. In general, she looks more developed and more like a goose in the final artwork compared to the initial sketch.
Gracie has come a long way and still has a little while to go before she hits the shelves, but I hope this has been an interesting read into how she has been developed over the months!
‘The Egg’ – will be published by NPP Books (Date TBC)
Grace is a freelance illustrator and designer working from the south east of England. She graduated with a degree in Illustration from the University of Lincoln in 2013 and went on to work as an illustrator and designer for children’s magazines, board books and picture books.Twice a week Grace also works in the office of a Junior School and teaches art to some of the pupils. Nature and fantasy are often strong themes of Grace’s work and she has been inspired by nature ever since she was a child, always choosing to draw from nature in her work or by which book to read!
When she is not drawing, Grace can be found drinking lots of tea, listening to Bowie and wearing her favourite Doc Martens!